In surprise move, Crawford resigns as FDA commissioner

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Two months after emerging from a grueling confirmation hearing to head the Food and Drug Administration, Dr. Lester M. Crawford Jr. abruptly resigned his post Sept. 23.

In a memorandum to FDA employees, Dr. Crawford stated, "After three and a half years as Deputy Commissioner, Acting Commissioner and, finally, as Commissioner, it is time at the age of 67, to step aside."

Dr. Crawford, the first veterinarian to lead the agency, offered no other explanation for his decision. He had been acting commissioner of the FDA for more than a year when President Bush named him to be commissioner in February. By a vote of 78-16, the Senate overwhelmingly approved Dr. Crawford's nomination in July.

Several controversies held up his confirmation, however, including drug safety concerns, a stalled decision over easier access to emergency contraceptives, and allegations of an inappropriate relationship with a subordinate. A government investigation found no basis for the charges, sent anonymously to the Senate.

The president has named Andrew von Eschenbach, MD, director of the National Cancer Institute, to be acting FDA commissioner.

Prior to joining the FDA in February 2002, Dr. Crawford led the Center for Food and Nutrition Policy at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. He previously oversaw the Agriculture Department's Food Safety and Inspection Service, as well as the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.